a collaboration between Sparc Technologies, Swinburne University and Composite Materials Engineering focuses on smart composite structures to help engineers detect structural defects in planes and rockets before they cause disaster. The industry-linked project will create graphene-enabled smart composites for aviation, aerospace and renewable energy.
The project was funded by an Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Grant from the Federal Government, with over AUD$1 million (around USD $640,000) invested across Swinburne University, the government and industry partners.
The smart structures can be wirelessly monitored for hard-to-detect defects using a smart device, helping prevent catastrophic failures.
The project will create the next generation of smart composites that can improve safety and reliability, while significantly reducing costs in the energy, transport and aerospace sectors.
Swinburne University’s deputy vice-chancellor for research, professor Karen Hapgood, said the project was utilizing their world-leading capabilities and expertise in space, aerospace and advanced manufacturing to make a real-world impact.
“Smart composites, such as those being created by this project, represent the connected future of our cities, our structures and our networks,” she said.
Mike Bartels, managing director of Sparc Technologies, said the project was an example of the innovative solutions that could be realized through university and industry collaboration. “Working with Swinburne University of Technology, we are pushing the boundaries of what is capable in advanced manufacturing and graphene-based technologies to truly transform industries.”
Carbon fiber composites are an essential part of modern infrastructure but the physical and environmental forces they experience often cause defects that cannot be detected by visual inspection.
This project aims to use graphene-based nano-materials to create a working prototype of a smart structure with wireless connectivity that can be remotely monitored for these difficult-to-identify defects. This includes allowing technicians to monitor wind-turbine blades in remote mountain or coastal locations and detecting faults in airplane and rocket parts before they fail.
Lead investigator associate professor Nishar Hameed said the project would have important implications for safety, reliability and cost in space, aerospace and renewable energy. “We are helping to create an interconnected network of smart composites that can transform how we build and maintain massive structures like airplanes and wind turbines,” Hameed explained. “This technology could help address the massive cost – human, economic, environmental – of catastrophic disasters like airplane crashes, while delivering benefits across a range of industries.”